Breweries that invite catering companies to sell food to patrons are facing a county-wide crackdown that could make it harder for customers to drink on anything other than an empty stomach.

For years, pop-up caterers have helped drinkers get food with their beer at small breweries across San Diego. But the county became concerned that the caterers were not following food safety rules, freelancer Ian Anderson writes for us. For instance, about half of caterers did not have access to a hand-washing sink, according to a study of 25 locations.

Catering companies will now have to have a Direct-Sales Catering Permit, while tasting rooms need a newly-created Host Facility Permit.

Marilyn Morrison, owner of Emme’s Catering, said she was bothered by the new rules at first, but now recognizes the need.

“Too many folks have been running like it’s the wild west,” she said.

The new rules took effect in mid-January, but the county is offering a grace period until June. Then, Morrison and others will have to decide if they want to invest what could be thousands of dollars so their businesses qualify for the new permit.

State Cracks Down on Big Beer

In this week’s report about the many goings-on in Sacramento, Andrew Keatts tells us how San Diego’s craft beer industry may be getting a boost from the state’s Alcohol and Beverage Control division. The agency now seems to be going after long-alleged pay-to-play tactics by big beer companies that make Budweiser, Coors and Miller. The theory is that these beer makers pay bars, restaurants or retailers to carry a specific brand of beer, and not its competitors — a practice that would hurt small breweries here and across the state.

I write about a how state lawmakers are taking another stab at a $3.5 billion bond for parks, the Salton Sea and other outdoorsy things. And Sara Libby tells us how a recent investigation by our friends at CalMatters shows insinuations of widespread voter fraud in California is a trumped-up charge, so to speak.

Podcast: SANDAG’s Misleading Numbers Games

The regional planning agency SANDAG hid two things as it tried to sell voters on a tax increase last year. It mislead us about how much money a previous tax increase was bringing in — an effort that seemed aimed to ensure that we didn’t realize the projects it was trying to entice us with might not happen. And, as we reported this week, the agency also misled us about how much its projects would actually cost — another trick with the same apparent goal.

Andrew Keatts, who has been investigating this over the past several months, talks about his latest findings with Scott Lewis on this week’s podcast, which they co-host.

• Speaking of this, SANDAG’s executive committee yesterday decided to ask for proposals from law firms so that an outsider can investigate the agency.

Also on the podcast, Keatts and Lewis also talk about the plan to put a new joint-use football and soccer stadium in Mission Valley where Qualcomm Stadium now is. Their guests are Beau Lynott, who runs a website covering San Diego State Aztecs football, as well as Kirby Brady and Mark Cafferty of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

Commentary: Empty Lots and Lost Opportunities

Everybody is focused on what should become of the Qualcomm Stadium site. But San Diegans should look at other vacant or underused spaces, too. Then we should consider what else might be possible, according to an op-ed by Clifford Deaton, a political scientist who writes about urban development.

The most obvious example of this working is East Village’s Quartyard, a lot that has become a good place to grab a beer and meet friends. There are lots with similar potential across the city’s 342.4 square miles and most of them go unused. If neighborhoods focused as much on them as the city did on the feckless wants of a professional sports team that shall go unnamed, perhaps we’d all enjoy beautiful San Diego even more than we do now.

In Other News

• Immigrants facing deportation are also forced to deal with excessive delays before they can see a judge and, in the meantime, are detained in potentially deplorable conditions, according to a lawsuit filed against the federal government this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

• The San Diego City Council is set to impose its own set of rules against drones used by hobbyists, even though there are existing federal rules that try to protect the public from drones. Some people feel the city’s proposed rules does not go far enough. “We’re talking about brain injuries, eyes getting put out — the bad stuff that happens and changes people’s lives forever,” local attorney Dan Gilleon tells the Union-Tribune’s David Garrick, who has been covering the city’s drone rulemaking. A Facebook group called San Diegans for Safe Drones — the sort of thing that reminds me how far into the future the present is — says, “Don’t let our city become Drone Diego!!!”

• There’s a state program that gets money from tribal casinos and sends the money to local governments to offset the impacts casinos have on local resources. An audit found that a San Diego County committee handed out a quarter million dollars of this money without clear justification. (Union-Tribune)

• The old saying about failed politicians is that they couldn’t be elected dog catcher. Well, in San Diego, our politicians don’t even want to be dog catchers. The Union-Tribune reports that San Diego County might outsource its animal control services.

• Ed Harris, the lifeguard union representative who came in third in last year’s mayor’s race, says that lifeguards should consider breaking away from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. He cited concerns that firefighters are trying to take lifeguards’ jobs and, in doing so, are endangering public safety. (City News Service)

The Week’s Top Stories

These were the most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Mar. 4-Mar. 10. Click here to see the full top 10.

1. Immigration From Mexico Could Soon Plummet — Even Without a Border Wall
Research from two UC San Diego economists shows that the economic forces that push and pull people across borders are changing such that the border wall could be a moot barrier before it is even finished. (Kyle D. Navis)

2. ‘My Job Is Not to Help Them’: Business Districts Increasingly Target Homelessness
In the absence of city or regional plans to address the growing homelessness crisis, business districts are stepping up with their own initiatives. Some groups have taken steps that do more to displace homeless folks than help them get off the street. (Lisa Halverstadt)

3. Three Big Outstanding Questions on San Diego Unified’s Budget Cuts
What does a $6 million cut to “Property” or a $1.5 million cut to “Civic Center” entail? On those and a number of other issues, parents, community members and even employees are struggling to understand what the cuts mean. (Ashly McGlone)

4. Documents Raise Major Questions About School District’s Quality Assurance Office
San Diego Unified’s Quality Assurance Office was supposed to be a hub of accountability where parents, students and employees could get their complaints heard and investigated. But hundreds of pages of testimony from one of multiple lawsuits involving the office show decisions about student safety were made without crucial information, and other troubling issues. (Ashly McGlone)

5. How SoccerCity Dies
Soon, signature-gatherers will get to work on behalf of the plan to build an MLS stadium and development on the Qualcomm Stadium site. If the City Council green-lights the project, you can likely expect to see a new round of signature-gatherers in town, this time as part of an effort to kill the plan by forcing it to the ballot. (Scott Lewis)

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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